EAST NAPLES — An East Naples duplex fire on Thursday night left one woman dead, according to Greg Speers, a spokesman for the East Naples Fire Control and Rescue District.
The fire, which damaged both occupied units of a duplex on the corner of Collee Court and Gordon Street, also left one man with smoke inhalation and killed three cats, Speers said.
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a death investigation in coordination with the state Fire Marshal’s Office, which is investigating the cause of the fire.
Natalie Felber, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s office, said the investigators are still working on a positive identity of the victim.
Responders from the East Naples fire district, the Collier Sheriff’s Office and Collier County EMS were on the scene to a fully engulfed fire at the duplex that began before 11:30 p.m. The fire started in the unit on the east side of the duplex and spread to the other unit.
Neighbor Miguel Rivera said he was eating with his family when his brother-in-law alerted him to the fire. He rushed outside, ran to the front of the duplex and found a man trying to enter the fiery building.
"He was trying to get in because his wife was inside," Rivera said. Rivera said he ran back to his house to get an ax when law enforcement arrived and cleared the scene for the arriving fire crews.
Firefighters entered the duplex to look for the woman during the fire, Speers said, but they could not find her because of heavy smoke. It was during a second entry into the building that rescuers located the woman’s body, he said.
Bill Smith, who lives down the street from the scene of the fire, said the flames were intense and built quickly. He said the women living on the west side of the duplex entered her residence to retrieve her cats, rescuing one. Two other cats were killed.
The Red Cross is helping find temporary living arrangements for the surviving victims of the fire, Speers said.
While residential home fires are not uncommon in Southwest Florida, Speers said human fatalities are rare because building codes typically prevent the rapid spread of fire.